by Bill Keiffer
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Jeff was likely calling back right at this moment to see what
kind of game I was playing, hoping that it would be a game. I
felt incredibly hollow. I had asked him to... no, I had told him
to save the transformed. What the hell was I thinking? His character
and my character on Furry Muck were involved, but that was little
more than a game. A very special social game, but still...
He loves me, Greyflank said without any trace of irony. He has a kennel, that means acreage. He can keep some of us there, hidden.
"His character loves you!" But I couldn't even believe I was saying it aloud. Jeff is real. Tadhg isn't. He's just text on a screen. "Jeff doesn't feel that way about me."
I felt Greyflank smile in my head and I knew his eyes sparkled, even if I couldn't picture him. Tadhg's a part of him, maybe even the best part of his player, he said warmly.
I rubbed my forehead and tried to make sense of it all. "You're confusing reality and fantasy," I said softly.
This is all just text on a computer screen to me, Bill.
I could feel Wicked glaring at Greyflank from across my brain. Charger seemed to content to nibble on things in the back of my brain.
As for me, I felt decidedly odd. I obviously had Bluenight on my mind. I had thought up a dozen ways my character could disarm that argument with the Blind Pig universe, but of course, the writer of the universe would know I was wrong. Then it occurred to me that Greyflank would be easier to convince than BlueNight. "Morph me, then."
We've already tried that and it didn't work.
I nodded. The first time I felt Charger within me, I expected my body to change. I almost felt it. But nothing. "Welcome to reality where you get one body and that's it."
Current events not withstanding, Wicked growled with a touch of irony.
"Current events not withstanding," I agreed.
Prepare for scheduled maintenance, the tiger morph said as I felt yet another switch in the back of my mind get thrown. Panic rushed through my body as if some invisible damn had burst. A river of fear swept me up as if my mind was nothing. I felt the eyes of a thousand people watching me, all laughing at my pitiful struggle to stay above water. I knew none of this was real, I refused to let it be. I could see the dashboard of my grand am, I could feel the seat belt pressing against my chest as I threshed about certain the car was going to turn into a horse any second. I refused to take part in such a ludicrous transformation!
This is not real, I told myself, but I could almost see Wicked smirking. The fear was real, it was too much for me and I simply refused to sit here and take it.
Then I got the car door open.
And, suddenly, it was all gone. The fear, the helplessness, and the panic.
I was just a guy from New Jersey with a horse's head, who needed some air. I didn't think it was prudent to step out where the motorists could see me and panic. I didn't find that thought as insulting as I might have. Why?
That's because I'm suppressing your emotions. The tiger snapped at me. That's also why your Rico Suave dom there thinks this is just a game. We're skipping the stages of grief until you're safe. That was a taste of denial, by the way.
"THAT did not feel like denial," I whispered and wiped my eyes.
You mean the urge to get out of the car and throw yourself into traffic because you were overwhelmed didn't feel like denial to you?
"Oh," I said to myself and even Greyflank stayed silent on this point. "Not exactly a carrot on a stick, is it?"
Wicked made a rude noise and used my hand to start the ignition. I was too weak to argue, and it was fascinating watching my body move on its own in any case. Remember what denying your emotions got you before, he said, referring to the living mountain within my mind.
And then we were... I was driving again, filled with an odd kind of nervous serenity. I recognized it as the feeling the feeling I got when I committed myself to something that I knew was going to be rough, like the first time I allowed a faceless... and the thought just fell away. It was normal for my memory to desert me like that, but I had a sense that reference was very important.
Then I felt Charger lean against me within my head, and I almost saw him in the car with me. In fact, for a moment there seemed to be a giant, laid back horse morph in the seat next to me and a draft horse laying it's head across my shoulder from the back seat as it watched the cars go by. Both horses were incredible happy to be on the parkway, pacing the herd. And then they were gone, except the gentle attention-getting pressure on my mind of the one Charger emulation.
If I hadn't believe in magic, hadn't prayed and expected it to feel something like this, I might very well have gone mad right then and there. "Charger?" I asked the gentle pressure within my mind and smelled sandalwood and hay. Sweet manure suddenly spiced the air and the smell of oiled leather brushed against the insides of my skull. I smiled.
How could I not smile? Magic was real. All my hopes and dreams were light years closer to becoming reality. For the first time since I was a little boy, I actually felt like the universe loved me even as it confounded me. I was like a child... a child of the universe... and sweet innocent Charger was not just a part of me, but I felt I could give birth to him.
You needed to learn to trust, Charger said. You gave yourself over to the man... knowing he would hurt you... break you. You forced yourself to trust... to have hope... Do you remember that, now?
I felt my eyes begin to tear, but I still had a smile. I nodded, although the pony knew what I knew. How could it not?
You forced yourself... then you allowed yourself... so that I could be born.
I nodded again. No one I knew understood what it was like to put yourself some completely in someone's hands with only your trust to keep you warm and safe. No one I knew understood that this was not a sexual thing. I only wanted to be treated like a horse and it was very erotic, but it wasn't sexual. Not for me. Not for Charger.
You have to trust us now, Charger said. Trust us, so we can be born.
I sniffled and nodded. I could deny them existence, but that would be denying myself. I felt myself choking up a bit. I was finally going to get to have children... and if that meant tearing hell a new asshole then that was what I was going to have to do.
I had no idea where I was going, but I felt like I had a destination in mind... it just wasn't my mind, not anymore.
I turned on the radio and heard a bit of Rush. WRAT's Rockin' Robin came on and announced the last nine songs and preempted her joke of the day with an announcement of a werewolf sighting. This caught my attention, and suddenly there was a laser like focusing of all the voices in my head... TURN THAT UP!!!
My hand snapped out and obeyed. Rockin' Robin sounded almost like she was giggling. "Now, apparently, I thought the this was all just a joke... we've reports of Centaur running along the shore of the Niagara river up in Canada... in Virginia, there's reports of the FBI emptying an office building because someone found a pony in the elevator dressed in a business suit... there's this bear running around in Cupertino... now, I'm laughing my ass off here because I'm waiting for the report on flying pigs, y'know? But just now my Mother called... all weirded out because she had a car accident trying to avoid... would you believe a two story tall centaur dressed up like a skunk?" I heard a pencil tap and papers ruffle in the background. "Anyway, my mother and, like, 11 other people are being hosed down with tomato juice to get rid of the stench, according to her... sounds like one of Steve Hook's parties."
I heard an exasperated snort. "Now, I don't know who's behind all this, who got my mother in on it, or even who just called here actin' hysterical because their friend, Angus, turned into an otter and they had a video tape of it. Angus, if you really turned into an otter: run! You've still got a brain bigger than your friend's... I mean... this is radio, fer'chrissakes!" Another snort and the sound of papers being thrown across the room. "Anyway, I give up, I surrender. You win. Until that phone call I actually was starting to believe people were changing into things."
I lowered the volume back down to background noise. Is there anyone on the list named Angus? I don't think there's any macro skunktaurs. Maybe I am wrong about it being the list. Maybe Charles was just out teaching a class... but then... there were over 600 subscribers... assuming only half of them are in the states that's still 6 people per state. Adjust for population density and...suddenly I knew where I was going.
Millions of people from miles and miles around spent more than a third of their lives there. Perhaps even Chris O'kane, who live in Long Island... or was it Staten Island? Damn, why was my memory so shaky? I'd thought this was the perfect body, no defects. Worry about it later. Odds were there would be listers in NYC... and unlike other parts of the country, there would be no place for a deer morph to hide. In fact, I think only Charles would be able to survive transformed in New York.
I had to be in New York.
I had to save... them... whoever they are.
I have to save them. Collect Merit badges. Gain Points. Use my power to earn more power.
Get the power I need to release everyone but the sleeping dragon... and when we split, each will take a piece of the mountain with us... tearing him to shreds with our births.
And it would be alright in the end. Because I will have saved them all. I will become a hero and no one will care who I have to kill in the end. Certainly not when the victim was a creature of my own imagining. I will be legion, everything for everyone... just like in the story I wanted to write.
I felt a little spacey. The way I had waiting for the doctor to come out and put my tongue back together. Not quite dead. I wondered if I was finally in shock. I felt like I was going into shock; the steering wheel seemed a million miles away...
Miles away... mile marker 114.1 114.2 1145...llhb llh> llh8... that's not right... I have to pull over before I pass out...
You're NOT going into shock, someone in my head chided. The cat-thing. We're multi-tasking. Now, settle down...
Then I discovered that as easily as they could slide into my body and take control, I could slip into their mindsets and see things from their eyes. Charger welcomed me inside of him although I felt petulant and frightened and overwhelmed. He hummed as he pulled the cart forward while his rider wore spurs that jingle-jangled-jingled as we rode riding merrily along... I had one last thought of my own before succumbing to his lullaby, and that was that the spurs sounded suspiciously like my power steering belt squealing under the hood... and he laughed and we both felt silly and I was Charger looking out through Bill's eyes.
I was Charger.
I was a horse.
And I wasn't Charger. Charger was a pony boy.
And that wasn't Charger. Charger was the horse sized humanoid sitting impossibly next to Charger.
Charger was within Charger and next to Charger, variants within a theme. The teamsters. The loners. The broken. The Vacation Persona from TigerMuck... the Shetland pony... even a little colt suckling at a mare...
...and that was ok with Charger. He accepted his lot with the noble grace that was the equine hallmark, a grace that I would never know as my own. He plowed tirelessly in this mental house of mirrors and filled the air with the sweet scent of upturned loam and horse sweat. He was all function, regardless of the form. He existed as a labour of love that I couldn't share with the ones I loved, but that was all right.
He didn't toil for them. He toiled for me.
Suddenly, I snapped back into myself as I got onto the Turnpike.
I had zoned.
I felt my wits were sharper than before I had pulled over. I felt the sharpest that I ever had in my life, and I tried to control my trembling... I didn't want to have an accident this far north. My chances of vanishing into woods was severely reduced up here, after all.
Still, I was steady and rested, as if I had slept... which I guess I had.
I would have thanked Charger, but he needed no thanking.
I found myself with the vague thoughts of a plan. I had plastic bags and general crap in the trunk from the drama club, including a folded cardboard box. I was sure I had a horse blanket in there from an aborted spontaneous picnic last summer... I had seen a homeless person become invisible in Manhattan by dressing a certain way back in the 80's. I had a feeling I could do the same even in the incredibly PC 90's.
I could park in Jersey City and take Path to Manhattan, the same way I do to get to CBGB's. The Village Voice offices weren't too far away from that, I remembered vaguely. There would be someone there, I hoped. At this rate I would not get there until 6:30. That would be too late.
Rapid T. Rabbit was in Queens... if he could meet me in Manhattan with his fur suit... I had used a fur-suit to hide a TF in one of my stories... no, wait, I was going to but I never got around to it. Funny sense of deja vu.
I just didn't have his phone number. And Rapid's bunny outfit wouldn't fit me, anyway. And I didn't have my cell phone, either.
Have I already considered Rapid and then discarded the idea? I must have, for I had the same sensation of Deja vu when thinking of Greg and Lloyd at Troma and when I thought of Ken and Mercy, comic book friends who I had known for years, but hadn't known they were furry fans. I didn't have time for this.
The Ferry crossed the Hudson every 15 minutes, took only 15 minutes, and their parking lot was a flat five dollars. I was working on limited funds here and the boat ride would cost about $9 or $10. Not so good and they wouldn't exactly be used to the homeless there. They might even try to stop me.
Still... there was an abandoned train tunnel under the bedrock of Weehawken. I could park... no, let's be honest... abandon the car in or near the tunnel. In the shadow of the cliff, I would be safe from prying eyes and I would be able to defend myself from any attacker.
"There's nothing inherently wrong with violence," I said to myself as if expecting an argument. None was apparently forthcoming. Which was good because I actually found myself spoiling for a fight. I could release some of the pent up emotion that the pussy was whining about.
I pulled into the rest stop to piss, and I had to stop myself from parking near the plaza. I had to be a bit more discreet than that. I pulled around back where several of the truckers had pulled over to nap for an hour or two rather than deal with rush hour. I carefully squeezed between two trucks that looked nicely inanimate and scraped my car's nose up the curb as I climbed up the embankment. I made a left and I then was invisible between the trucks and the vine covered fencing that kept the locals mostly from wandering out onto the Turnpike.
I unzipped and let it all out to hang in the wind. The sun was close to setting, but I had enough light. I really could look at it all day, the pink and brown mottling looked almost reptilian to me, except that it was irregular. It was hard to just empty my bladder and not do anything else. Fully extended, but not erect, it pulled painfully on the sheathe as it's own weight pulled it down. I would just have to get used to that mixed blessing, I suppose.
I looked both ways for anyone watching and I'm afraid I was disappointed that no one had been. I rummaged through my trunk and found some plastic bags, a thing of thick rubber bands, some cookies I had promised to mail friends, but had forgotten, a folded cardboard box, and my black oilskin duster, or a dry-as-a-bone. The horse blanket wasn't there.
I threw the things I would need into the passenger seat and wondered if I could pull off the effect with just bags on my feet and a box on my head. It just didn't seem to... appeal to my artistic vision. I shrugged off my favourite jacket (it had patches of the JLA on it) and saw how thick and dark my upper arm was. Yeah... no matter how black I was, the arm was always going to look way too healthy for a hobo.
Score one for artistic vision.
I looked about, hoping that I would find a ratty old blanket from some quickie some trucker had with a lot lizard. Nothing. Then I noticed my license plate. ACQUIRE.
I nodded and stepped out from behind the row of sleeping trucks. I saw what I needed instantly, a fat man goose waddling quickly towards the men's room, his truck idling and parked awkwardly.
I trotted quickly across the parking lot, my new feet hardly complaining in my sneakers, although they did feel a bit tighter. I didn't have time to worry if I was still slowly changing. It would hardly ruin the plan and I was at the truck before I could listen to my own thoughts whine.
This is wrong, I told myself, but I didn't listen. The passenger side door was unlocked and the sticker on the door said, "No Fat Chicks." Since I was a lean, mean equine machine and not a fat chick, I figured it was ok. I reached in and quickly stuck my hand in behind the passenger seat. I got a slightly stained teamster sweater. Local 169.
Coolies. I can use that.
I reached in again and hit pay dirt, a tattered stadium blanket for the New Jersey Knights. Sheesh. How old was this thing? I slammed the door and ran back to the trucks where my car was hidden. I leapt as I realized the blanket had my face on it... how perfect!
I was so giddy, I almost didn't notice the length of my leap. Twenty feet, if it was a yard.
That was Olympic level jumping. I leapt again and thumped onto the top of the Arrow trailer a little painfully. I laughed and then leapt off and landed next to my car. I looked around and again there were no witnesses to by actions.
If I was writing this scene, I probably would have interrupted some rape or something. Surprise myself by how strong I was and then got up in some race for a MacGuffin that may or may not be the key to my transformation. Ok, I'll be the first to admit that I'd watched too much television growing up.
I climbed back in my car and drive up straight along the hill and flinging my car directly into the on-ramp in my getaway. I felt alive and happy, I had a plan and I had something to do.
I had always wanted a Teamster sweater since becoming a horse.
Since realizing I was a horse, I mean. I tried to remember why I thought I had been a horse, but since I had turned into a horse headed guy, I guess it didn't really matter: I'd been proven right. That was the important thing. Being right.
I laughed as I merged back into the truck-bus lane traffic. I'd gotten away with stealing some stuff looking like this. I could do this. I could live like this. I had no doubt as a freak I'd get more respect as I ever did as a plain old white kid from the Jersey Shore. Even if I had to freaking live out of dumpsters for the rest of my life I would survive.
I turned the visors down and put them against the windows to limit the curious cars passing me. Because every glance to see what was in the left lane caused the windows to fog up, I couldn't very well change lanes too often. I tried to stay in the right lane, but traffic became thicker as rush hour began to get underway. I was going north so it wasn't that bad, but traffic was getting thicker. I got frustrated with only going 60 and so I zipped into the fast lane, ignoring the honks behind me.
None of these idiots really had to be on the freaking road right now, while I had to be. I hated them all, I realized. All the normal people. All the little people and their little lives. I was leaving it all behind me, I knew and I just didn't care. No one had asked me if I wanted this. I'd been given a dubious gift, but I was marked by the gods. I wasn't going to allow myself to become some sin-eater or some twisted scapegoat for the world. No, the world was going to be my whipping boy.
I found myself building up quite a bit of rage as the miles ticked by. It felt comfortable and I thought maybe I could harness that rage for more magic, if I could but trip on the secret of triggering and focussing the energies. It felt like home, this rage.
I looked about the interior of the car I was driving. Something about it seemed wrong. Not familiar. I couldn't remember where I had gotten it. The plastic around the ignition was broken, cracked. Had I stolen it, too? I didn't think so, but I maybe I had just "borrowed" it.
The trunk had my stuff in it. Damn this memory of mine.
Maybe my blood sugar was getting low.
My hand went to my secret stash of Cliff Bars in the center console. It wasn't unusual for me to "forget" to eat. I fumbled and pulled out... an empty wrapper. And then another. And another. Only they weren't really empty, they were full of air. Unopened and full of air.
I was still changing, gaining mass. I looked at my arm... it was ripped. Bulging black muscles marbled with raised veins and almost hairless skin. I was huge! I met my own shocking red eyes in the rear view mirror and saw the most handsome devil in the world looking back. "Are you still with me? Why are you making me a horse. Make me something people will respect. Make me a dragon, give me wings and fire breathe. Let me cleave a path through the world for you. Let me be your sword."
But the devil stayed silent.
I drove on confused and angry. I wanted to hurt people.
No, you are willing to hurt people if you have to.
Yes, I was willing to hurt people. There's nothing inherently wrong with violence it is a normal human response. I knew deep down I didn't want to have to hurt someone if I didn't have to, but pain was a good teacher.
You have to be better than normal people.
I am better than normal people. I'll prove it to them if I have to level Manhattan.
You have nothing to prove.
If they want proof, I'll do it.
You will live as if you are the example everyone will look to.
I... will be famous, a hero. Everyone will look up to me.
We just want you to be the man you are meant to be.
I got my temper back under control, and took a deep breathe. I couldn't gather 600 people together; not by myself. I had to be a leader and I had to do the right thing 24/7, even if I didn't like it. The herd would only be safe in one place, and I had a feeling none of us would have any magic powers until we were close to each other. In proximity, we could probably feed off of each other.
And then we can start culling the other herd, if we have to.
I was so caught up in this, I almost didn't see my exit for the ferry. I tried to get over and I couldn't make it. I was furious for a moment and considered backing up on the shoulder, but then I just whusked and gunned the car forward. Life was too short and a hero on a quest had to be adaptable. The Lincoln Tunnel was only a mile or so away.
Just prior to the approach, the local streets had begun to rise above the highway. Dirty brown and gray bricks and rocks kept me safe from milling foot traffic. That was the one problem I was going to have in Manhattan... people may not look up in New York, they may not even make eye contact unless their life depended on it, but they did look at the cars, wondering what idiot would bring a car onto their island.
I, of course, had been a cab driver and was therefor supremely qualified to drive in Manhattan, but they wouldn't know that. One glance and they would see something that should have been hitched to a hansom cab. That would merit more than a glance from all but the most jaded New Yorker. If I mere presence did start the sheep rioting, I'd be trapped in my car.
I think even Thor would be worn down eventually.
Assuming there were riots already, of course.
I cursed myself and snapped on 1010 news radio. The am station came in nice and clear, reporting that the FBI has classified the apparent transformation of a grown man into a pony in a Virginia office building as a prank gone awry, while at the same time Center for Disease Control announced that they are currently examining the so-called iWerewolf. Compared to Rockin' Robin's voice and demeaner, Cash Tilton's delivery was as placid and as factual as Ben Stein. I suspected he could be attacked by a jabberwocky and he'd hardly emote.
I wondered how much it would actually take to make him cry like a baby.
I put that on my to-do list just as I cleared the cliffside for the long casual loop into the tunnel. I could have glanced to the left to see if New York City was still there, but the visor blocked my view. It didn't matter. Traffic reports told the tale of an average exodus nightmare. Going into Manhattan wouldn't be so bad, but as I approached the Village Voice offices -- and the Hudson Tunnel, coincidentally -- traffic would be terrible. I could abandon the car, get another, but I was going to have enough bad press.
I had to be on my best behavior because... that was the plan.
I did have a plan.
I just seemed to have forgotten it at that moment.
I jogged over to the far right toll booth. E-Z Pass? Whatever, it appeared free and I really had bigger things to worry about than a possible fine. I was in the tunnel and committed, the plan becoming more vague and indistinct with each second.
I wished Michele was here to tell me what I was supposed to do. I didn't want to ruin everything. I suddenly felt extremely guilty that she really didn't even know where I was.
I swallowed and tried to collect myself. I had a plan, I just had to stay calm. It had something to do with Stephen King. Firestarter. Yes... the pyro-kinetic little girl exposes the government's secrets by visiting the most honest, outspoken, independent paper on the Northeastern Seaboard: Rolling Stone magazine. I was aiming for the Village Voice because I knew where it was.
Not a bad plan, really. I sighed and settled into the familiar routine of driving. I liked the way the Grand Am handled and next to my old Cavalier, it was the best car I had ever owned. I wished I hadn't missed my exit; it'd be far safer in the Journal Square parking garage than in Manhattan. Still, I had to be flexible if I wanted to survive, and it was admittedly easier on my cash flow this way.
I listened to the radio fade as the tunnel went deeper. For a moment, I had only static as company. I thought of my poor wife, probably calling Robert Woods at this moment to see if I got there safely. I wondered if she'd think to call Amy and ask her what happened. She didn't like me being a pony-boy, I doubted very much she was going to like me looking like one any better.
I hope she understood why I had to tell my story to the world before I told her.
The radio came back just before I saw the exit. The FBI and the CDC was forming a joint task force. They had announced a press conference for 6:00, but they were willing to tell the press this much so far. There appeared to be no pathogen, there was no plague and no reason to panic. Bush announced that any and all of the transformed people would be protected by the full force of his office, that they were still just as human as anyone struck down with AIDS, crippled, or with reduced mental facilities. He pronounced facilities correctly, but I found myself wondering if he was President yet.
How had I missed that? Oh, yeah. That was this past weekend. I sighed. Well, I had said his being elected was the sign of the end times and the recent visit of my Father-and-Brother-in-law had been the second. I smiled as I turned left.
Anyway, I had no doubt he saw us the same way he saw AIDS patients, the disabled, or the mentally retarded. The question was, how far different did he see all those groups he'd lumped us with?
As far as signs of the end times go, turning into Clay Potter was hardly the worst thing that could have happened. I could have turned into Michele's mother. Now, that would have been bad. Or a corpse.
The first red light wasn't far off. Already traffic into the tunnel was backed up and it was flirting with "blocking the box." There were normal people sitting next to me, facing the other way. It was only a matter of time before someone looked. A short matter of time as they wondered what was on my face and then a slightly longer amount of time to marvel at what a realistic mask I was wearing.
I leaned back and turned between the seats as I saw the driver in front of me glance into her rear view mirror. O.k., I had forgotten about that. I grabbed my black leather hat off the back seat and wondered if I could hide my muzzle with it. Michele, at least would be pleased I was using it for something other than an umbrella. Actually, I loved the hat, but it didn't go with my JLA jacket. It was wonderfully crumpled from the heat of the car and was tight on my head, so it would not blow off as easily now. I was about to try it on when I saw the car next to me move.
I faced forward and pulled up to the next light, where I wanted to take a right. I needed to go downtown and while there was a more direct route, I was suddenly nervous about walking into the Village Voice after hours.
And there was something else I hadn't want to admit.
I was in Manhattan.
Manhattan: Traditional home for almost every Marvel superhero.
Manhattan: The city Batman's Gotham was modeled after.
Manhattan: The city that aspires to be Superman's Metropolis.
This was where I would go if I suddenly found myself turned into Superman. Even a Superman who found himself trapped in Wonder Woman's costume.
If Steve Zink, a fellow comic book fan on the list and very much into turning heroes into busty heroines, had been transformed, he'd be heading here. Heroes always gathered in Manhattan: it was a cosmic rule. If he could fly, bend steel in his hands, and could see what was in my pants with his x-ray vision, there was still hope for us.
Provided he hadn't become a sex-starved bimbo, of course.
But best not to think that way, for now.
I came to another red light. I covered my face with the black duster that had somehow gotten into the front seat. Let the pedestrians think whatever they want, but I didn't want to force my hand. I wished my cell phone was still activated; I could have called a dozen different people on the way up here instead of working on some half-baked plan.
You're going to look damn good in that now that your skin's nice and dark.
I looked at the duster... yeah, I thought to myself, I was going to look damn good in this. Plus I was now tall enough to wear it and take a flight of steps without tripping. My gut wasn't going to stick out either. I only foresaw one problem.
My arms were now about as thick as my legs used to be. There were not going to fit comfortably in the sleeves.
I chewed on the seam at the 48th and 10th. I chewed on the seam on the light at 48th and 9th and then I just ripped the damn sleeves off. I was barely surprised, although the fabric was as strong as a boat tarp and extremely well made.
My self-confidence was rising again. Once the novelty of being a freak was over, I suspected these mood swings would cease. I'd been calm among friends, after all.
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